Eye Witness Recounts Tragic Accident on El Cap's Freeblast

By James Lucas ,

The following story provides additional information about an accident that occurred on El Capitan on June 2. To read the original report, see Two Expert Climbers Killed in Fall From El Cap’s Freeblast.

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. Photo: Jimmy Harris/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

“Call YOSAR!” Jordan Cannon shouted to Jeremy Schoeborn at approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 2. As Cannon and Schoeborn followed behind Jason Wells, Tim Klein, and Kevin Prince on El Capitan’s 10 pitch Freeblast (5.11b or 5.9 A1), Wells and Klein had fallen off the route.

At 5 a.m. that day, Cannon and Schoeborn started up the 10-pitch slab route on the lower third of El Capitan, intending on making a five-day ascent of Golden Gate (VI 5.13a). By the time they reached the roof of the third pitch, Jason Wells was close behind them, linking pitches and not placing much gear. Cannon offered Wells, who was making a four-year- anniversary ascent of the Salathé-in-a-day with Klein and Prince, the chance to pass. “It’s OK,” Wells responded. “I wanna watch you do this roof move.”

Cannon continued through the 5.11b boulder problem and into the higher pitches of slab while Wells climbed with his two partners below. At Triangle Ledge, the top of pitch 6, Wells climbed through, climbing the next 5.9 pitch without placing any gear. He then short-fixed his 60-meter line for Klein, and started into the 5.10 Half Dollar pitch. Klein jumared up in his approach shoes with a second rope, which he fixed for Prince, below him. The team motored up the wall, making quick time.

After Prince, who was toprope soloing with a Mini Traxion on his team’s second fixed rope, cleared the 5.9 section on the seventh pitch, Cannon started up behind the trio. He then waited at the entrance to the Half Dollar for Prince to finish the pitch and pull the dangling second rope out of the way.

Around 8:15 a.m., as Wells climbed toward Mammoth Terraces, Cannon heard a thud. Cannon saw Wells fall roughly 60 meters, stop briefly, then fall farther and hit the wall. He heard Klein scream. Then Klein fell. Their rope momentarily caught behind a block and the fall was arrested. Then their cord severed and both Wells and Klein fell approximately 1,000 feet to the ground. Cannon says it was impossible to determine if they had gear between them due to the rope being severed a few feet above Klein’s knot.

Cannon yelled down to Schoeborn to use his cell phone and call YOSAR. He and Schoeborn simulclimbed a little to the top of the pitch, meeting Prince at two bolts about 220 feet below Mammoth Terraces. Klein had fixed the second rope—the once Prince had jugged on—to two bolts and then again, 10 feet higher, to a number two Camalot.

Callen Hearne, who was jumaring the lines to Heart Ledges with shoes and water for Cannon and Schoeborn, saw the team fall. He descended immediately and found the bodies of Wells and Klein on the ground. Cannon and Schoeborn climbed to Mammoth Terraces, brought up Prince, and then descended the fixed Heart Lines to the ground. They met with YOSAR rangers and gave their statements.

Source: Jordan Cannon

GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to help support Tim Klein's family and Jason Wells's family during this difficult time.

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